The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 28, 2004


Hometown boy to give Memorial Day speech

In 1986, John Berman is shown in the center of town, playing Taps on Memorial Day. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

It was Selectman Doug Stevenson who invited John Berman to speak at Carlisle's Memorial Day ceremony. The two had worked together years ago on summer construction projects. I spoke with Berman last week and here is what I learned about the young man who now appears on the evening news, but not so long ago lived around the corner, several streets away.

John Berman, the son of Gerry Berman and Jane Lewis, grew up in Carlisle during the late '70s and '80s, living on Indian Hill and Stoney Gate. When asked about growing up in town, Berman responded, "I loved growing up in Carlisle. I had great teachers; it was a great town and Bates Farm had the best ice cream in the country."

Looking back on his K—8 experience in the Carlisle Schools, Berman had many fond memories. "Carlisle's public school was like a mini campus. I went to school with the same 50 to 60 kids for nine years. It was a major part of my life. There was soccer, the plays... I remember the whole experience." It should be noted that Berman had leading roles in the seventh- and eighth-grade plays, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and West Side Story. "I marched in the Memorial Day parade," continued Berman. "I wasn't very good at playing the trumpet; Mr. O'Halloran will tell you that, but I did it and loved it." John's father, Gerry, was a member of the Carlisle School Committee in the '80s, and it was about this time that plans were being made to build the Corey Auditorium. Berman graduated from eighth grade in 1986.

John Berman performs as Pharoah in Carlisle School's 1985 seventh-grade play, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

Berman spent the next four years attending Phillips Andover Academy where, as he explained it, "I enjoyed the independence of a boarding school. It was terrific." Then it was off to Harvard College.

Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club

It was during his freshman year at Harvard that Berman auditioned for the Hasty Pudding Club show. "I got in, was a cast member for all four years and was president of the club during my senior year. We had a very large budget so the show would run for 50 performances. It was an opportunity to do real theater, in drag. It was more fun than should have been legal," he exclaimed.

Campaign manager for Meehan

In the summer after his sophomore year, Berman interned for Massachusetts Congressman Marty Meehan in Washington D.C. Then in the summer of 1994, between his junior and senior years and into the fall, he became Meehan's campaign manager for the November election. "It was the fall of my senior year and I had the Hasty Pudding Club, the Meehan campaign and a senior thesis to write. It was my first experience at being grossly over-committed," Berman explained. It is obvious that things worked out just fine; with a major in political theory, Berman graduated from Harvard in 1995.

After graduation, Berman decided he wanted to try to cover politics. National politics had always been a big interest in his life, but he had no experience in journalism. "I tried getting my foot in the door in a number of national news organizations," he recalled. "The only network to give me an interview was ABC News. I was hired as the overnight desk assistant, working 12 to 8 a.m., making copies and answering the phone." He did this for a short time and then went on to do research for ABC during the 1996 Clinton-Dole election campaign. "It was a dream for me, being able to cover politics," said Berman.

In 1997 Berman went on to become a writer for "World News Tonight" with Peter Jennings. After two months on this job, Berman took over as principal writer. "This was the second time in my life I felt overwhelmed and over-committed," Berman admitted. "Peter helped me and it was a phenomenal experience." During the news broadcasts Berman would sit next to Jennings, writing and editing scripts. If there were late breaking news he would be the one to decide what words to ad or cut. There are 20 minutes to fill with news for this weeknight program that runs from 6:30 to 7 p.m. on Channel 5.

Covering the Bush camp

In the fall of 1999, Berman was assigned as the off-air reporter covering the Bush camp during the 2000 presidential campaign. "I went everywhere George Bush went. I spent more time with him than any other reporter," recalled Berman. "I saw the entire country was grueling, but to see the inside of an election, the ultimate American democratic process, was phenomenal." Speaking of the Florida recount, Berman explained "we had been on the road for twelve months. Then it was like running a marathon, passing the finish line and them telling you to keep running and not telling you to stop. I was in Austin, Texas during the recount and I vowed I wouldn't shave until a winner was announced."

Following the election, Berman became engaged to Kerri Voss, a classmate from Harvard. In July 2001 they were married and moved to the west side of New York City. Also in 2001, Berman was assigned to cover the White House for ABC News, commuting between New York and Washington D.C. By the summer of 2001, Berman started doing on-air reporting and became a correspondent for overnight shows and ABC News affiliates. "I was learning how to be a correspondent," he told me. It was during this time that the 9/11 disaster at the World Trade Center occurred and Berman was assigned to cover the story.

A full-fledged reporter

By the fall of 2002, Berman was a full-fledged general assignment reporter, filing stories for Good Morning America and World News Tonight. In January 2003, he was sent to Qatar, Jordan to travel in the back of a seven ton truck as an "embedded" reporter with the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines truck convoy heading into Iraq. He has returned to Iraq three more times, the latest being in mid-April. "It was disheartening to still see so much violence," he recalled. "My heart goes out to the people of Iraq who have suffered pain and hardships for decades." Berman also voiced incredible respect for the American servicemen and what they have to do. "I never thought I'd be going to Iraq. It was a terrifying experience being shot at. The actual time fighting is short but very intense." Asked about the prison abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, he said he had heard about it in January, but didn't learn the details until the pictures came out several weeks ago.

So on Monday, Memorial Day, John Berman will be in town to address the citizens of Carlisle from the stage of Corey Auditorium. He will be speaking about his experience covering the war for ABC News, "embedded" with American troops in Iraq. In the audience will be his wife, his mom and dad, his sister Mindy, her husband and their two children and his former next-door neighbors from Autumn Lane, the Forsbergs, "who were like family to me."

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito